I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) in Iraq as well as what is going on with the Sunni Awakings and SOI (Sons of Iraq). If the 3 people who read this blog are at all interested please check out
It can be a little on the wonky side but the information is well worth the effort. From what I understand De-Baathification and the disbanding of the Iraqi Army left thousands of Sunni men out of work which led them to begin attacking US Soldiers during the Sunni Insurgency. This gave Al-Qadea a foothold in Iraq and a chance for this Sunni dominated group to use violence to effect policy and the political process. The Sunni Tribal leaders turned against Al-Qadea and this was the beginning of the “Sunni Awaking” that led to a drop in violence in the region before “Still President (thanks John Stewart) Bush rolled out the “surge policy” in 2007. These men are paid 300$ a month by the US to not fight us and to provide security to their neighbourhoods, towns, cities, etc. Oh, and lets not forget, they are being paid in part to not shoot at us.
During negotiations with the US Maliki agreed to take 20% of these men into the Iraqi Army and Police force. Right now the estimate is that there are 100,000 Sons of Iraq. Maliki has been dragging his feet on this and is now openly engaged in a crackdown against the SOI in Diyala and are arresting many, many men. With some of the bombing that has been going on in Diyala it could be argued that they are engaging in terrorism ahead of the upcoming elections to prevent Sunni’s from voting. (gritty details can be found here with an addendum here) Whether or not Maliki and his advisers actually believe the SOI are pretending to not be Al-Qaeda or whether or not the Shi’a dominated government doesnt want to integrate a bunch of heathen Sunni’s is beyond the point. The surge was supposed to buy time for political reconciliation. Bringing the members of SOI is part of that process. The Malikigovernment can say they are willing to give these men jobs picking up garbage, working in sewage plants, government desk jobs etc till the cows come home. Because of the nature of the culture there is a lot of prestige in being able to carry a gun, to work for the Army/Security Forces, and protect your country and home. Besides that, these men and our commanding officers in the area were promised that 20% of them would be taken in by the Army/Security Forces and now Maliki is going back on that promise.
If the Maliki government does not keep it’s end of the bargin it is quite likely that these men will go back to fighting and we here in the US remember all too well the violence in 2006/2007. Is Maliki so filled with hubris after his success in Basra, Sadar City, and Mosul that he believes he can take on the Sunni tribes in Diyala? The US provided heavy air support in the 3 conflicts listed above and General David Petraus may be reluctant to attack the men our soldiers have done so much to bring around peacefully.
I’m not saying that the Sunni Tribes in Diyala are innocent of any wrongdoing, nor do I feel the same way about the Shi’a dominated Maliki government. Lets not forget that there were and possibly still are active Shi’a militia inside the Maliki government and controlled by high ranking officials inside the government. Lets not forget these militia were going into hospitals and removing wounded men for slaughter. Lets also not forget that some of these Sunni men were allied with Al-Qaeda in Iraq and were carrying out bombings against the Shi’a government, US Soldiers, and Shi’a civilians, the latter with the intent of clearing out any Shi’a from ethnically mixed areas. There is plenty of blood on everyoneshands to go around and then some. No one in this situation is innocent. But if Maliki goes back on his promise to integrate these people (the only political solution and way forward for Iraq) then these men could very well go back to fighting. One-hundred-thousand-men, armed, with guns, fighting. This could be a coming clusterfuck and would make any talk of US Soldiers leaving null and void and leave us stuck in an unwinnable and untenable situation, much like the ethnic conflict of 2005,2006, and 2007.
On his last visit to Iraq “Still President” Bush promised the Sunni Awakening groups that the US would not abandon them. Let us remember the last time a President Bush said the US would not abandon an ethnic group in Iraq. This was after the first Gulf War when our government under President George H.W. Bush encouraged the Shi’a in southern Iraq to rebel against the Saddam regime in Baghdad promising US military support if they were to do so. The Shi’a in southern Iraq did just that. The help and assistance they were promised never came through and they were slaughtered.
(PS this is what happens when I take time to do lots of reading instead of being completely focused on knitting. I’ve actually read 2 whole novels too and am now on a third “East of Eden”)